Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
DJ Von has seen Mulatto’s rise since her teen years and has learned how to adjust to anything in order to keep her show going. From firsthand experience, he saw how the stage confirmed her star status.
“Say we did a show in Rhode Island in January, no one knew who she was. So, we double back with Lil Tjay, and now half of the venue know her songs. So, I knew it was really picking up,” he told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” DJ Von discusses twerk contests at Mulatto’s parking lot concerts, how a mistake led to him being her official DJ, and their friendship off the stage. Read below.
How did you and Mulatto connect, and how did it turn into you deejaying for her?
‘Latto and I first linked when we were 13 or 14 years old. She’s been rapping for a long time and I’ve been deejaying since I was 13. We would keep running into each other. It was a friendship before the business part. She used to throw parties on the Southside when she was rapping. She would book me for her teen parties and I’d be her deejay for the parties. But, I didn’t become her official DJ until about a year and a half ago. There was a situation where her DJ missed her Rolling Loud Miami set last year. She was pissed. Her whole Rolling Loud set was messed up because she didn’t have her original DJ that was working with her. She had a show the very next day in Atlanta, but she was pissed at her DJ. Me and her dad were real good, so he called me like, “I need you to come though.” From that day on, we’ve been locked in. The show was at Bonfire in Atlanta [for Trap Fest on May 25, 2019].
How did it turn into a permanent gig?
That show was a trial run. When we did that show, she was like, “I’m rocking with you.” We were friends. Also, as a dude, we don’t listen to female’s music. She was like, “If you can learn the words, you can be hard.” So, we did another show and she was like, “OK, you’re hard.” Our chemistry was on point. After I learned the words, when she would run out of breath, I would fill in the words or muting the music right on time. If anything messed up, I was right there. That really grabbed her attention. It was more than me pressing play and pause. I was actually adding to her shows.
What are some mistakes you made early on that helped develop your chemistry with Mulatto?
I had to learn her pace and how she move with her show. There would be times where we would do shows and I would be moving too fast. She would be like, “Damn, Von. I really rap. Let me catch my breath. We had a 30-minute show and we’re done in 15 minutes. The promoters are upset with me.” So, we had to keep going through that. Also, her mic might be too loud. Then, there’s that eye contact. When she look at me, I know something isn’t right. I fix everything and then look at her to see if we’re good. Say if it’s one of those times we’re going too fast. She got “Bitch From Da Souf (Remix)” and the original. I would have to play the remix and mix the original one in to keep the show going, and extend the time. I had to be on point for anything. If the board messes up, I have a capella it out while I fix the board.
Is there a show you had to do that?
I just had to do that not too long ago when we did a show in Alabama [on September 19] (laughs). We were booked for a 45-minute show and we didn’t have 45 minutes worth of music. She can’t look crazy or dumb. It’s my job to take all the heat. She’s the main priority. If we’re slacking on time or moving too fast, I’m thinking what I can do. So, I might have to start a twerk contest or do a fan engagement on the spot. You never know what’s going to happen. We just did a show at Cosmopolitan on Saturday and her manager Brandon [Farmer] told me, “We need to do her song with Gucci [Mane] ‘Meetings,’ and her song with [YFN] Lucci,” so I had to find them. But, she had no clue we were going to do those songs. So, without telling her we’re going to do those songs, I had to talk her into the song, press play, and we just had to be on point.
What changes did you notice to her live show once her songs like “Muwop” and “Bitch From Da Souf” started getting more attention?
The venues and the pay changed. We did her own tour. It was me, her dad, and her. This was before Brandon came on. We were doing 300-cap venues of just her. Before “Bitch From Da Souf” was what it was, they knew her music. As it grew and hit these different radio markets, we started doing promo tours. We were on Lil Tjay’s “True 2 Myself Tour” and we were doing 1500-cap venues and the girls were singing the songs. Say we did a show in Rhode Island in January, no one knew who she was. So, we double back with Lil Tjay, and now half of the venue know her songs. So, I knew it was really picking up.
What are some of the most surprising fan reactions you’ve seen on the road?
This past weekend we did a show in Nashville. Nashville was different. When they saw the sprinter van turn down the street, they were almost about to flip the sprinter van over. It was that type of time. When we got in the club in Nashville, the power went out. But, the fans were so excited to see her, they a capellaed her entire set. I couldn’t say anything. They did that from start to end. When the event was over, we had to go next door to drop someone off in the parking lot and were followed damn near until we got back to Atlanta. It’s real fans. People are dressing up like her. I can see real longevity in her.
How did the pandemic affect Mulatto’s performances?
Everything was shut down and the whole virtual thing didn’t start until August. It was a lot of Instagram Live engagement. A lot of artists run off of shows, but she probably had the best year of her life during the pandemic. She signed her deal this year, got a Bentley truck, her song went gold, and “Muwop” about to go gold. She made a way. Her, Brandon and her marketing team went full throttle.
When was your first live show in the pandemic?
Atlanta started these parking lot concerts and other cities started picking them up. So, we’ve been doing parking lot concerts in every city. So, I’d say that started in September.
What are you and Mulatto’s views on them?
We enjoy it to an extent because it’s not a full on concert. It’s socially distanced and it can’t be as many people as normal. It’s cool for now, but we’re waiting on the world to open back up; so we can do these 10,000-cap venues. A lot of people can’t make it to the parking lot concerts or don’t feel safe. You don’t get checked and it’s a liability.
As a DJ, how do you get fan engagement with people in cars? It’s not like you can have a twerk contest in cars.
We definitely are still having twerk contests (laughs). Now, they’re getting out of the car and don’t care anymore. I can rock anything and that’s why Mulatto really loves working with me. There’s no situation that I can’t fix.
You two have been friends since teenagers. What have you two done on the road to show that friendship?
One thing about us is we’re crazy (laughs). ‘Latto doesn’t hide our friendship from her fans. A lot of artists are like, “You’re the DJ. I’m not going to give you all this clout. It’s all about me.” She’s not like that. Outside of business, we’ve been to Mexico and cabin trips. We have a real bond. It’s a lot of fun working with her.
Were you with Mulatto during her appearance on 2 Chainz’s drive-in concert recently?
Nah because I was booked at a club and ‘Latto takes three hours to get dress, literally. We have to adjust to that on the spot (laughs). There have been times when she’s been so late to get there, I can’t do an opening set. She may be onstage before I even plug in. If we’re super late to a show and she has to be onstage or we won’t get paid, she has to be on stage. I have to be talking to the crowd while making sure my laptop is plugged in and she’s good. That’s why I say it’s a lot working with a female artist. With a male artist, we’re in and out. Female artists have to have to be right with their hair, makeup, and clothes.
What’s on Mulatto’s rider?
We used to need Henny, wings, pizza, and candy. But, we don’t drink Henny no more. We’re straight off tequila. Brandon has to have his bottle of Moet. That’s our rider. That Don Julio has to be in sight.
You toured with other artists like Young Nudy in the past. How was performing with him?
That tour was kind of rough because Nudy is still a street nigga, so the budget is kind of tight because you know how street niggas are about their money. Nudy shows were lit, but from the business perspective, I couldn’t really stick around for it. He’s still my brother for life. The shows were lit, though.
What’s next for you and Mulatto?
We’re building our show for when the world opens back up. It’s going to be more show than performance. What we’re trying to bring is getting the people to see her actual talent. So, next, it’ll be an entire show from start to finish. She might come out to smoke, bombs, cars, and all types of stuff. It was be like a BET Awards.
In 2021, for myself, I want to release more content. I want to executive produce and be a headlining DJ for these concerts. I love deejaying for artists, but I want to be booked as DJ Von at these Rolling Louds. I have an artist who showcases me. [Mulatto’s] always like, “This is DJ Von, my best friend. Y’all go follow him.” I want to be like hip hop Deadmau5.